VMworld Copenhagen – Day one summary

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Today was officially the start of VMworld Copenhagen even though many people were here yesterday for partner day. The hands on labs are always popular at VMworld shows, and for all the reasons previously covered by others. I’ve done two labs so far (HOL01, Creating the Hybrid Cloud and HOL27, Netapp and VMware) which were both useful in different ways. There’s a good atmosphere and the technology behind the labs continues to evolve – this year vCenter Operations (and I think Netapp Insight Balance) are on display showing how the lab infrastructure is performing. There are more seats and the labs are open longer than last year (32 hours) which is good to see.

I spent fair bit of time in the bloggers lounge, a small dedicated area with power, a separate wifi connection, and facilities for VMworld TV to broadcast live from. This is where you can often find John Troyer, the godfather of VMware’s social media scene along with many of the twittter names you’ve seen but never met in person. VMworld is a vertitable ‘who’s who’ of the virtualisation world – I found myself sitting next to Scott Lowe for ten minutes before realising who he was and saying hi! Many of the people hanging around the bloggers lounds have been at VMworld many times so it’s a good place to get a feel for what’s hot and what’s not at this year’s conference. I got my first taste of VMworld TV via an invite to vSoupTV. Quite a few people mentioned that it felt quieter this year but as the attendance has been confirmed at over 7,000 it must be because there’s more space rather than less people.

The centre of the complex is used as a relaxation zone complete with plenty of seating, food, recliners (for those quick power naps), table tennis, table ice hockey, chess sets etc. It’s a good place to meet people as you pass through on your way from a general session to the labs. Free wifi is available throughout the Bella Centre but unfortunately it’s pretty temperamental – somewhat expected for a large conference with over 7000 people. That wouldn’t be so bad but the VMworld iPhone app relies on internet access so when that’s not working you can’t reference your schedule or register for sessions. When it does work the VMworld iPhone app is pretty good – you can check for upcoming sessions, get a filtered twitter stream for a given session, and even check site maps.

I’ve spent much more time in the Solutions Exchange this year compared to last – and it’s only day one. Maybe I’m looking for something different but whereas last year it didn’t inspire me and I really wasn’t too interested in ‘being sold’ anything I’m finding that this year it’s of more value to me than the general sessions. Having the chance to speak to a vendor and find out what makes their product or soluion special, how it would fit with my company, and what it would do for us is of great interest as it helps you put both the technology and the vendors in context. All the companies you’d expect are here and some I didn’t expect – RedHat were doing a roaring trade in red fedoras, a great promotional idea which you see being worn all over the place. There are often lesser known companies coming up with great ideas and this is where you can connnect and learn about them – these guys keep the big boys on their toes! VMware also have a large stand where you can quiz technical experts and drill down a bit on the new product announcements made earlier today.

As a customer of Netapp I’m pretty familiar with their product offerings but I wanted to stop by the stand to see what was on show. I was secretly hoping that I’d pick up some tips, or see a demo which might show that we weren’t using a product to it’s fullest. There are plenty of recent releases (OnCommand software suite, SnapProtect, System Manager v2.0) which they could promote along with the usual FlexPod (which was on show). Unfortunately the bulk of the stand was occupied by a cycling challenge with some booth babes (eyecandy for both the guys and the gals though – fair at least) and there was only one demo for a third party solution Cloupia (see below). I personally don’t think Netapp do very well in the social media space and I’m underwhelmed by their presence at VMworld too. Where’s the Netapp party in the evening? Where are the prominent Netapp bloggers? (@that1guynick is here but compared to the vSpecialists it’s not enough). Step it up Netapp!

I’d not heard of Cloupia before but they’re a cloud automation/orchestration software provider. According to their website they’re strongly integrated with Netapp at present and offer an integrated management tool for FlexPods. I can see the value to both Netapp and their customers as without it you’re working with at least three different (albeit best of breed) management tools – UCS Manager, VMware vCenter and Netapp’s OnCommand suite. While they have a slick iPad demo which involves creating a VM and seeing it created and integrated into the managment portal I can’t help but feel it’s not ready for primetime. Support for other storage vendors is in the pipeline as is integration with other monitoring tools but given that I imagine medium to large enterprises are their target audience I can’t see them getting much adoption until these integrations are in place and well tested. On the plus side Raju Penmetsa the CTO of Cloupia was on the booth to answer questions so you can at least get answers to any questions you might have.

I also spoke to Nexenta (about their unique selling point) and VMware (about vFabric and the new products) but I’ll blog separately about those in the near future.

The keynote session was with Steve Herrod and was largely the same as the VMworld US keynote. There were three new product announcements;

I’ve not had time to dig into these yet although I’m particularly interested to see what the new vCOPS product offers – when I do I’ll post what I find. There’s been some good comments on this article around the new releases.

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